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Beginning Writing : Summarizing, Annotating, Paraphrasing, Quoting and Plagiarism

What is the difference between summarizing, annotating, paraphrasing and quoting from a text and how can you help to prevent your student from plagiarizing?


A summary is the main idea of a text put into the student's own words. Begin by asking your student, "what is the text about?" My students sometimes found it helpful to circle the key words first before writing their summary. Book report writing is a good way of using summaries.


Annotating is a type of summary that also includes the student's own opinions about the text. To begin helping the student begin writing an annotated bibliography, have him include in his summaries of the texts he is going to use for a paper and the reasons why the each text would be good for his report or why support what he is saying in his report or whether the text is faulty in some way.


A paraphrase is a shorter, more condensed form of the entire section of a text put into the student's own words. Your student will want to paraphrase, as an alternative to a direct quotation, to support his claims or provide evidence for his writing. He must use different vocabulary but retain the same meaning of the original text. Make sure your student doesn't just use synonyms but also changes the order of the words and/or uses a different grammatical structure. Also, make sure he doesn't change the meaning of the text by adding his own views.

The easiest way to prepare a text for paraphrasing is to first number the paragraphs so that they can be referred to easily. Next teach your student to underline and circle portions of the text with purpose. Depending on what he is planning to use the paraphrase for, he can underline claims or points to support an argument he wants to make within a paper or he can underline imagery within a poem. He can circle key terms. He will then need to use his markings to write his own paraphrase of the text he has chosen to use.


A quotation is a word-for-word section of a text in which your student begins and ends with quotation marks. Teach your student the four ways to use a quotation : 1) introduce the quotation with a complete sentence followed by a colon. 2) introduce a quotation with a explanatory phrase followed by a comma, 3) write a sentence using only short quotes. 4) introduce a quote by paraphrasing it first. I usually begin by suggesting that the student introduce the quote, add the quote and then explain the v quote or why it is in the paper.


For all of these types of writing, your student needs to cite everything that is in his paper that is not common knowledge. For his first writings, he can just cite the book's name and author's name and the page of the text he is referring to. He can add to this as his papers become more complex until he is using a MLA or APA citation format.


  1. I'd never thought about the specific difference between summarizing and paraphrasing. You've summed it all up perfectly - thanks!

  2. I think it's SO important to teach kids what plagiarism is. With all the resources available online, the line between an original work and grabbing lines from different sources becomes blurry rather fast!

  3. I'm slowly working on the kids' getting the different types down.

  4. Thank you, this is just what I needed.

  5. Girls! I completely agree that kids should understand that they can't just copy what they read without any understanding. I'm sure that paraphrasing helps to understand some topics better too when it's full of new unknown words for example. The article is really valuable, I will save it for my children when they grow up. When I was a student, I used automatic paraphraser sometimes. It was really helpful when I was pressed in time.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. It means so much.